In Michigan, knowing the proper steps to take immediately following a car accident can ensure your safety, protect your rights, and facilitate a smooth claims process. The actions you take after a Michigan car accident can help you navigate the distressing and overwhelming aftermath effectively and none will help you quite as much as hiring an experienced car accident lawyer.
Seek Medical Care
Seeking medical care after a Michigan car accident is crucial for several important health and legal reasons. Not all injuries like internal bleeding, whiplash, or soft tissue injuries immediately appear after an accident. Seeking medical care allows a healthcare professional to assess your condition thoroughly and identify any hidden injuries.
Medical treatment immediately after an accident creates an official record of your injuries. This documentation is crucial when filing an insurance claim or pursuing legal action. Medical records provide objective evidence linking your injuries to the accident and substantiate your compensation claim.
Furthermore, prompt medical care helps establish a clear link between the accident and your injuries. Insurance companies and legal entities often scrutinize the gap between the accident and the first medical visit. Seeking immediate medical attention strengthens your case by demonstrating that your injuries directly resulted from the accident and were not caused by other factors or events.
In addition, insurance companies often use any delay in seeking treatment as a basis to question the severity or legitimacy of your injuries. By seeking immediate medical attention, you ensure you have full documentation of your injuries and begin receiving the necessary treatment, which bolsters your claim's validity.
Prompt medical attention protects your health and well-being and upholds your rights and entitlements after an accident.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, varying in severity depending on the circumstances of the collision. The types and sizes of the vehicles involved, the speeds at which they were traveling, and the physics of the actual accident can determine the type and severity of the injuries that result.
Some common car accident injuries include:
- Whiplash: Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that occurs when the head is forcefully jerked forward and then snapped back, causing strain to the neck muscles and ligaments. Symptoms may include neck pain, stiffness, dizziness, and headaches.
- Broken bones: Car accidents commonly fracture the arms, legs, ribs, and wrists. The collision can break or shatter bones, requiring medical treatment such as immobilization, casting, or surgery.
- Head injuries: Head injuries can range from minor concussions to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). These injuries can occur if the head strikes an object or a sudden jolt causes the brain to collide with the skull. Head injuries can lead to cognitive impairments, memory problems, frequent seizures, headaches, and changes in mood or behavior.
- Back and spinal cord injuries: Car accidents can cause damage to the back and spinal cord, resulting in severe and life-altering injuries. Herniated discs, spinal fractures, and spinal cord injuries can lead to chronic pain, paralysis, and loss of sensation or motor function below the injury site.
- Internal injuries: The extreme force of a motor vehicle accident can cause internal injuries, such as organ damage, internal bleeding, or ruptured blood vessels. These injuries may not be immediately apparent and require prompt medical attention, including possible emergency surgery.
- Soft tissue injuries: Soft tissue injuries involve damage to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Sprains, strains, and contusions (bruises) are common in car accidents and can cause pain, swelling, and limited mobility.
- Psychological injuries: Car accidents can have a significant psychological impact on the individuals involved. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders can arise following a traumatic accident.
Continue to Follow Your Doctor's Advice
To help ensure you get the compensation you deserve, continue to follow your doctor's advice. Whether it's activity restrictions, work restrictions, follow-up appointments, or further treatments, do what your doctors ask of you. Your doctor has your best interests at heart, and you will help your legal claim by heeding their advice. Not following their advice and instructions can lead the insurance company to argue that you aren't as injured as you say you are or that you are much better now.
Make a Police Report
In Michigan, reporting accidents involving injuries, deaths, or property damage exceeding $1,000 to law enforcement is mandatory. Therefore, you should contact the police and provide an accurate account of the accident as soon as possible.
Here are the key reasons why you should always involve the police after a car accident:
- Accident documentation: When the police come to the scene of an accident, they will create an official accident report documenting crucial details about the incident. This report serves as an official accident record and can be valuable evidence when filing an insurance claim or pursuing legal action.
- Determining fault and liability: Law enforcement can play a crucial role in assessing the accident scene, speaking to witnesses, and gathering information from all parties involved. Their training allows them to evaluate the evidence and determine who was at fault or if multiple parties share liability. This information can significantly impact the insurance claims process and any legal proceedings that may follow.
- Admissible evidence: The accident report created is an official legal document and is admissible as court evidence. This report can provide an unbiased and objective account of the accident, making it valuable evidence when establishing liability and seeking compensation.
- Objective documentation: Police officers have training to investigate accidents and remain objective in their assessments. Their presence at the scene adds credibility to the accident report. It can help prevent disputes regarding the circumstances of the accident. Insurance companies and legal authorities often rely on the police report as a reliable source of information.
- Uncooperative parties: In some situations, the other party involved in the accident may be uncooperative or refuse to accept responsibility. Involving the police can help ensure that the necessary information gets documented and that the other party can't later deny their involvement or attempt to change the narrative.
Calling the police to report an accident helps protect your rights, strengthens your insurance claim, and provides essential evidence if legal action becomes necessary.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible, no matter who might be at fault. Providing them with accurate and detailed information about the incident is essential. Be prepared for them to ask several questions about where and how the accident occurred. Cooperate with your insurance company's requests for information and documentation related to the accident. Keep a record of all communication and correspondence.
Alternatively, you can hire an experienced car accident attorney first, and they can report the accident to your insurance company. Sometimes this is best as it protects you from saying something that might harm your claim.
Understand Michigan's No-Fault Insurance System
Michigan operates under a unique no-fault insurance system. After a car accident, you will need to learn Michigan's no-fault laws or better yet, hire a car accident lawyer who already knows them.
Among other things, Michigan's no-fault insurance system means your own insurance company generally covers your medical expenses, lost income, and certain other benefits up to a certain dollar amount, regardless of who caused the accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, also known as medical payments or med pay, provide coverage for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and income loss resulting from the accident. Michigan stands out from other states by offering unlimited lifetime medical coverage for accident-related injuries. This means that policyholders can receive medical care and treatment without predetermined caps on expenses.
Always have your lawyer notify your insurance company promptly to initiate the PIP claims process. Michigan's no-fault system ensures that accident victims can promptly receive necessary medical care without having to establish fault or wait for lengthy legal proceedings.
You should also know the time limitations for filing a claim under your no-fault insurance policy. Failure to meet these deadlines may result in the denial of benefits.
Lawsuit Thresholds Under Michigan's No-Fault System
Only car accident cases that meet specific criteria will qualify to pursue injury or property damage compensation through the courts.
Michigan's no-fault system includes provisions for a mini-tort lawsuit. This allows policyholders to sue for up to $3,000 in vehicle damage not covered by the at-fault party's insurance. However, a mini-tort claim can't be pursued for bodily injury.
Michigan law also establishes certain thresholds for filing lawsuits related to bodily injuries.
These thresholds include:
- Permanent serious disfigurement
- Serious impairment of body function
If the injury meets these thresholds, the injured party may pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault party for non-economic damages.
Consult with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Consulting with an experienced car accident attorney is one of the most crucial steps you can take after being injured in a car accident.
The many benefits of meeting with a lawyer to discuss the accident and your specific injuries include:
- Evaluation of your claim's worth: A car accident attorney can assess the extent of your injuries and damages resulting from the accident. They can help determine the potential value of your claim, taking into account medical expenses, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and other relevant factors. An accurate evaluation of your claim's worth is crucial in negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company.
- Negotiating with insurance companies: Insurance companies are profit-oriented and minimize payouts by undervaluing or denying legitimate claims. An experienced car accident lawyer can negotiate for you, protecting your rights and maximizing the chances you obtain a fair settlement.
- Gathering evidence: An attorney can also assist in collecting and preserving crucial evidence for a car accident to support your claim. This may include obtaining police reports, medical records, witness statements, photographs of the accident scene, and any other relevant documentation. Proper evidence collection can strengthen your case and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
- Handling legal procedures and paperwork: Dealing with legal procedures and paperwork can be overwhelming, especially when recovering from injuries. An attorney can handle the legal aspects of your case, such as filing the necessary paperwork, meeting deadlines, and adhering to the legal requirements of your state's court system.
- Litigation representation: If your case proceeds to litigation, having a car accident attorney by your side is essential. They can advocate for your rights in court, present your case effectively, and navigate the complexities of the legal process. This can significantly improve your chances of receiving fair compensation.
Remember, every accident is unique, and the specific circumstances of your case may warrant different legal actions. It's crucial to consult with a qualified car accident attorney to assess your situation and provide you with personalized legal advice.
Don't Speak to Insurance Adjusters
Insurance adjusters for the at-fault driver's insurance company are known for calling victims within days of the accident. They often seem friendly and genuinely concerned for your well-being.
However, adjusters aren't on your side. They want to speak to you before you talk to a car accident attorney. They know you might accept their first settlement offer, which never covers all of your losses, before you talk to an attorney.
They might also get you to say something that can damage your claim or something they can twist for their own purposes. Avoid risking your claim and do not speak to them. Instead, politely refer them to your attorney. Once you hire a car accident lawyer, you generally don't need to speak to the insurance adjuster, as they will talk to them for you.
Did a Michigan Car Accident Injure You? Contact an Attorney Today
Even if you think your injuries aren’t serious or that you can rely on your PIP coverage to pay for your damages, contact a seasoned Michigan car accident attorney. The sooner you contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Michigan, the sooner they can help make the best of this difficult and often overwhelming situation.